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Finegold: Recent school shootings in Colorado were ‘very predictable’

May 15, 2019 06:05PM ● By Lisa Redmond

DRACUT – Sadly, the recent shootings at Colorado high school were “very predictable,’’ state Sen. Barry Finegold told the Dracut School Committee this week.

On May 7, students Devon Erickson, 18, and an unidentified juvenile allegedly opened fire at the STEM School Highlands Ranch in Highlands, Colorado where police say 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo was shot and killed and eight others were wounded.

This is the latest in a horrifying number of school shootings across the nation.

Erickson was allegedly bullied by younger students and would whisper about shooting up the schools, according to published reports.

“Unfortunately, no one caught this person before he (allegedly) committed these crimes,’’ Finegold said. “What you are doing in Dracut is what we hope to do across the rest of the state,’’ he said.

In 2017, Tewksbury’s Wynn Middle School and Dracut’s Brookside, Englesby and Greenmont Avenue elementary schools, along with Dracut High School participate in “Start With Hello Week,’’ a program that promotes connectedness and inclusion, and helps students to identify and help others who are showing signs of isolation.

Under state law, Dracut, like other school districts across the state, the school system has the Bullying and Intervention Plan to prohibit bullying, cyberbullying and retaliation. In January, Finegold announced that he filed the Safety and Violation Education for Students (SAVE Students) Act in the state Senate. This proposed legislation is aimed at combating the crisis in violence, bullying and suicide that is “devastating our nation’s schools,’’ he said.

If passed, this bill would set a new national standard for statewide school safety programing, Finegold said.

The statics show that death by suicide among teenagers, especially girls, is rising. “The difference between now and 10 years ago is the explosion of social media,’’ he said. “We have to get to people before they do these things,’’ he said.

“I’m very proud of this town that you have already shown leadership to do that,’’ Finegold told the committee.

The SAVE Students Act was also filed in the Massachusetts House by Representative Natalie Higgins of Leominster.

“Students play an integral role in ending stigma around mental health and can have the most impact in changing school culture,” Higgins said. “I am excited to work with Sandy Hook Promise on the SAVE Students Act to help Massachusetts students build stronger community, identify the signs and signals of violence and suicide, and support each other in creating safer schools."

Additionally, the SAVE Students Act would ensure that all Massachusetts schools have a designated school threat assessment team that is trained on how to identify and intervene when threats of violence are made and how to get students help before a crisis. The establishment of school threat assessment teams was a leading recommendation from mental health and safety experts following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has partnered with Sandy Hook Promise to implement a $1 million grant to expand school-based violence prevention programs, mental-health training, and suicide prevention to nearly 140,000 students across the state.

“All students should be able to learn and grow in environments that are inclusive, supportive and free of violence,’’ Healy said in a statement. “There is nothing more important than protecting the safety and wellness of our young people, and this will is an important step forward,’’ she said.

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